Click here to go to Day 1 of the 2012 Japan Election Diary.
She had just poured the eggs into the skillet when the yakuza sat down.
She'd been warned that this would happen. You don't open a coffee shop in this part of Osaka and not expect a visit from one of the men in black. In the movies they were gruff warriors, modern samurai who followed their own rough code of justice. Sure they were violent, heavy drinkers, but they had hearts of gold.
He slammed his hand onto the counter, rattling his Zippo lighter and making his pack of Lucky Seven cigarettes jump into the air. Instantly the sounds of a lively lunch crowd dropped dead, no-one daring to clink a cup or miss what was going to happen next.
She turned the gas off, wiped her hands on a greying white towel and straightened her apron. It was the only material left from her marriage. She didn't even have her mother's wedding kimono that she'd hidden beneath the futons. She thought she had hidden it well, but her good-for nothing husband's one skill was to sniff out money. He found it one morning and sold it for cash that afternoon. That evening he blew the lot on pachinko and chu-hai.
The coffee shop was everything she had in this world, she thought, before correcting herself. Not quite everything. Her eight-year-old daughter sat on a stool in the kitchen door doing her homework, between chewing on a pencil. She smiled.
She had only seconds to make a decision. She could serve the yakuza and she would come to no harm. Or risk her own daughter's safety and the shop's fixtures and fittings by chucking him out. She couldn't afford to start again.
All eyes from the four tables darted between her and the yakuza.
She walked out from the counter to his seat and smoothed her apron.
"I'm very sorry, sir. But we do not serve yakuza in this coffee shop," and bowed her head.
The yakuza looked around. Saw the fear in the customers' eyes. Saw the girl in the kitchen. And saw the waitress's smooth apron.
He scooped up his lighter and smokes with one sweep of his fist and looked her in the eye.
"My mistake, miss."
He eased off the seat and walked out into the street. She smoothed her apron and walked into the kitchen.
"Mama, why are you shaking?"
"I had to throw a bad man out."
"If I didn't do the right thing now, I'd never have the chance again."
Today, 11 of the candidates who would be prime minister faced a grilling from the media. I know this because I read it on the Japan Times website. I didn't actually witness the grilling as I was at my mother-in-law's place and the TV was showing a primetime variety show. Several people in giant company mascot suits were facing off in a running race.
I drank my coffee and tried to busy myself with twitter. Apparently all the running in the debate was about nukes. Ishihara doesn't want to phase out nukes until he's 120 years old, Noda does by 2030, Dr Dr Kada, the lady of the lake, wants them out by 2022, while Abe thinks Japan is doing just fine with them because if the country got rid of nukes, the country would have no nuke scientists. Which would be bad, he reasoned, because Japan would need them to dispose of all the nuke waste that his policies would create.
And his party is leading in the opinion polls.
My attention was briefly distracted as the TV programme switched to four middle-aged wives of company presidents who were filthy rich. The studio audience of selected 'B' rate celebs and their fawning fans oohed and aahed as one at how many ¥10,000 notes they carried in their wallets, how expensive their garish homes were, how many power-hungry toys they had in their lives.
I tried to get my head back into politics. Dr Kada said her party would stimulate the economy by giving women more jobs and more money.
I looked up at the TV. Now the variety show flipped to a segment on obese foreign women who battled to lose weight.
The girl stopped Our Mother-in-Law as she headed out the East Exit of Kashiwa Station along the elevated pedestrian walkways beneath the giant TV screen.
"Could you sign our petition, please? Everybody is!"
Our Mother-in-Law looked around. Everybody was.
"What's it for?"
"To reject the consumption tax increase. They want to double the rate."
"What's the rate now?"
"Five percent. They want to make it 10 percent. It's outrageous!"
"Well, it doesn't sound too bad to me. I lived in England where the rate was 17.5 percent."
"Yes, but they do have free health care. And you've got to pay for things somehow."
"Yes, but the money is being wasted by the politicians..."
"Maybe so, I don't like paying taxes, but I'm retired now. One day you will be too, and how will you pay for your pension if no-one does what is necessary now? If you leave the tough decisions to someone else later?"
Go to DAY 16
This blog series
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Guts Pose: Diary of a
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Go to DAY 16